WINNER OF CAPTAIN ARCHER'S SITE AWARD FOR GREAT WRITING
WINNER OF ENTERPRISE ENDEAVORS CHOICE AWARD
Disclaimer: All things Star Trek belong to that show, and whoever holds the rights at the moment. This story is being written for pleasure, not profit.
Rating: PG-13 just to be on the safe side. If this changes, I'll re-rate the chapter.
Synopsis: An Archer/T'Pol romance that begins at the end of The Seventh. It started out as a tag to that enjoyable episode, but has taken on a life of its own. If all goes as planned, their long road will take them through dark and rocky places as they discover emotions, and lose prejudices
A Trip Through Dark And Rocky Places
Ch 1 Two Roads Converge
Jonathan Archer tossed and turned. Though his body was exhausted, his mind wouldn't relax enough to let him fall asleep. Giving up the fight he slid out of bed and pulled a sweatshirt on over his t-shirt. He was tempted to head for the gym, but he knew a workout wasn't the answer. After spending the last three and a half days with T'Pol, helping her apprehend the Vulcan renegade Menos, exercise was the last thing his sore muscles needed.
"Stay, Porthos," he commanded, as the dog came quickly awake. "No sense in both of us losing sleep."
Archer sprawled in his chair; his head leaned against the bulkhead and envied his dog's ability to curl back up without missing a beat. But you weren't there Porthos; you didn't see what it did to her. He silently accused the animal, as he realized that if he was going to get any sleep, he needed to follow that thought to its conclusion. What was it about T'Pol that was causing him such unrest?
All his life he had disliked and distrusted Vulcans. When one had been forced on him as a Science Officer, he had resented it, and been prepared to put up with her for as long as the eight-day mission lasted. When the time had come for her to leave, he had been the one to suggest she stay. Then six months later, when The High Command would have taken her away from him, away from Enterprise, he amended; he had fought to keep her.
Over the last year he had learned that not all Vulcans were the same. When it came to The High Command, he still didn't trust them, and he was beginning to see that they weren't always representative of their race. During the months of hard work in close quarters, he had come to like and respect his Science Officer, as well as others of her kind that they had met along the way. Be honest with yourself, Jon, you like and respect T'Pol, the woman, not just the Sub-Commander.
He let the new thought sink in, along with all of its implications. When he added the information he had learned about her on this last mission, he realized that was what was causing his restlessness. For the first time in his life, he had seen a Vulcan look vulnerable and it had awakened something deep in him. But a little voice inside his head, whispered that if it had been any other Vulcan, he would be sleeping as soundly as his dog, instead of sitting in his quarters imagining dark eyes that appeared suddenly young and afraid, as they looked to him for help.
She had said she wanted him along on the mission because she needed someone she could trust. At the time he hadn't realized the importance of those words. A Vulcan ship had been warping to her aid, but it was a human she asked for help. It was a human who she had let see her indecisiveness and her moments of confusion. But most surprising, of all the humans she could have chosen on Enterprise, she had chosen him. He knew it was important, but the significance was eluding him. All he could see was the look on her face when she had doubted herself! How had she known he would be able to give her the answers she needed? Given his history with her race, he should have been the last person she turned to, instead of the first!
Without realizing what he was doing, Archer stood and headed for the hatch. There were questions that needed to be answered, and only one person who had the answers. He would bet almost anything that she was just as awake as he was.
"Come in," T'Pol answered as he rang the bell on her door. Though she had been attempting to meditate ever since leaving the Captain's cabin a few hours earlier, she wasn't making any progress. At the time she had thanked him for his help and told him that if he ever needed someone who he could trust, he could count on her. How could she be of help to anyone else, when she was still looking for answers in herself?
"Don't get up." He saw her start to rise from her meditation pose. Despite her exhaustion, she moved with a fluid grace that was all her own. "Did I come at a bad time?"
"Not at all." She relaxed back on the deck and watched the tall human in the flickering light from her meditation lamp. "What can I do for you, Captain?"
"I came to make sure you were all right." He crouched down across from her. She was a petite woman and always made him feel larger than he was. As a child he had been an ardent fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and in that moment, he was struck with the thought that she was the personification of Arwen. He fought, and lost, a battle to keep a grin from his face. He doubted she would appreciate the comparison, though the thought warmed him.
"As you can see, I am doing my nightly meditation." Her eyebrow rose in response to his smile. What was he seeing that she was unable to hide?
"You should be asleep, Sub-Commander, you've had a rough few days."
"As should you, Sir." She countered.
"Since neither of us seem able to sleep, would it help to talk about it?" Archer settled on the deck across from his second in command. "You weren't on that Vulcan ship long enough to have done anything except hand over Menos."
"As I told you earlier, I planned on dealing with this by myself, besides I thought it unwise to tell them you had come with me. The High Command would take a dim view of humans interfering in our business. Though I needed your help, I didn't want to do anything that would damage relations between Vulcan and Earth."
"You're not worried that Menos will tell them?"
"Worried?" She gave him a look he knew well, one that in the past had made him wonder why he even bothered, but tonight it didn't phase him. "It is illogical to spend time thinking about something over-which I have no control. But in answer to your question, I don't think he will say anything. He is Vulcan, no matter how long he has been away. To be captured by another Vulcan is one thing, but to have had a human involved would be a loss of honor."
"I had to ask," he muttered as he rolled his eyes.
"T'Pol, you're my second in command, it is permissible for you to call me Jonathan when not on duty." Archer hadn't expected the words that popped out of his mouth, but once they were out, he realized it was about time he said them.
"Jonathan," she corrected herself before she lost her nerve. The sound of her given name coming from him was soothing, like the mint tea she had come to favor before bed. "My mind is unsettled, and it appears that yours is as well. Maybe it is something I can help you with. Have you ever tried meditation? I could guide you."
"Not a mind meld!" He shook his head as he remembered what had happened to her when a meld had been forced on her.
"NO!" She held up her hand as if to fend him off. "No, a guided meditation, nothing more. Only those trained in the art of melds should attempt them."
Over the flickering of the lamp, he could see the need that her eyes expressed. Something had happened that had knocked down all her walls in the last four days, though he was glad she was relaxed enough with him to let it show, he was worried about her.
"You should get comfortable Cap--Jonathan." She nodded as he slipped off his running shoes. She took a moment to let her eyes wander over his body as he stretched and pulled off his sweatshirt. An almost smile tugged at her lips, as his scent moved past her nose. There was a time not too long ago when she had found his fragrance unsavory. That had begun to crumble at the siege of P'Jem, and disappeared completely, two weeks later when she had spent most of the night tied to him as they were held hostage.
"T'Pol?" Archer smiled, if he didn't know better he would have sworn she was staring at him.
"Move closer," she ordered. Though refusing to acknowledge the wicked grin that made his eyes sparkle, she scooted toward him until she met him half way, and their knees met, encircling her lamp. "Now take my hands." She saw him hesitate and it was her turn to inwardly smile. "It's all right, Jonathan. It is the way it is done in guided meditation. The teacher guides the student, and touch can be useful."
As she lay her hands palms down on his, and rested them on their knees, he felt the quiver that ran through her body. Who was the teacher and who was the student, and what was the lesson being taught? But before he could ask, he was filled with a peace and warmth from her touch. Where their knees met, he could feel her skin radiating heat through her loose fitting pants and his sweatpants. The small bones of her hands seemed to melt into his larger ones. A spicy scent that he had only caught brief whiffs of in the past filled his senses. T'Pol, her name rang through his mind and he prayed that all the stories of Vulcan telepathy were lies.
"Now close your eyes and concentrate on the flame. Try and picture the flame of the lamp between us. To meditate is to see the flame with your eyes closed. All your thoughts will center on the fire. Can you see it?"
"Yes," he whispered, as her voice filled him. He could feel the flame as well, but he doubted they were referring to the same heat!
"Now follow my breathing and keep centered on the fire." T'Pol breathed deeply and listened to the answering breaths coming from Jonathan. The familiar scent of the meditation candle filled her nostrils, and mixed with the intoxicating scent of the man she knew she could trust. It beckoned her mind toward gates that had been sealed 17 years ago.
She saw herself standing before a great lock, one with rusted and rotting hinges. Holding tightly to the hands that kept her bound to reality, she shoved against the lock and felt it begin to give way. Another hard shove as she gripped tighter to Jonathan, drawing strength from him, made the lock tremble and shake. On the third shove, the lock gave. Great floodgates opened and T'Pol was assailed with memories.
She lived again the chase through the heat of Riza's lazy jungle paradise. Not in sketchy dream quality, like before, but in lifelike reality. All the bright colors of that planet filled her eyes and the scents of exotic flowers and the sounds of wild birds surrounded her. She felt the ground soft against her feet as she ran, and the gun cool in her hand. She heard her voice call out a warning as the men she hunted kept on running. She heard one of them stumble and fall, and then he was before her, his gun pointed toward her. Shots were fired. The gun in her hand burst energy and the man died!
"NOOOOO!" T'Pol screamed, as she heard her name being called over and over again. "Jonathan," she whispered.
"Shhhh, it's all right, you're all right." Archer looked down at the woman he had pulled partially across his lap, and into his arms when she bagan to shake. "I won't let you go."
"I'm all right, Jonathan." She looked up at him, as she forced her hands to let go of his shirt where she had been gripping it. "It's gone, the memory lock is gone. He would have killed me if I hadn't gotten him first." She shivered at the thought.
Archer moved aside her meditation lamp and lifted her easily until she sat in his lap to share his body heat, as he wrapped his discarded sweatshirt around her shoulders. "Can you live with the memory?" He asked as he lifted her chin so she would meet his eyes. "T'Pol?" The look on her face was almost his undoing. She was open and alive, with every vestige of emotion clearly on display.
"I can now." She tried to put her Vulcan face back on, but only succeeded in looking sad instead of calm.
"Just rest." He pulled her closer as she tried to wiggle out of his arms. "That's an order, T'Pol." He was careful to give the order to the woman instead of the Sub-Commander, thereby giving her a choice. She was stronger than he, and they both knew it. If his touch was distressing to her, she could easily break free. "Just rest."
He felt her nod her head against his shoulder and relaxed in the pleasure of holding her. She was lighter than he remembered, but the last time he had been able to hold her like this, she had been unconscious. He had been too afraid for her safety to be able to enjoy her slight weight against his body. Now he was afraid it was something that he would never be able to forget.
Looking down into the sleeping face of his first officer he shook his head in wonder. Unemotional Vulcans like hell! He figured he believed in them, about as much as she disbelieved in time travel!